By Julius Oweh
The average Nigerian has uncomplimentary attitude towards the police. This stems from many years of the police undemocratic practice to the man in the street. That the catchphrase,‘ the police is your friend‘, is mere slogan and that in deed and in truth, the police is anything but your friend.
The police are always accused of bribe taking; harassing motorists and charging people for bail when though it is boldly written in every police station that bail is free. Furthermore, the big shots or politicians use the police to settle scores and that the poor man is always at the receiving end.
The new police helmsman, Ibrahim Idris hopes to reduce this trend. On assumption of duties last year he promised Nigerians of his consuming passion to change the image of the police and truly make the police to work for all Nigerians. This is how Idris put his concept of policing: ‘That the Nigeria Police Force will be re-positioned to be more accountable, responsive and reliable.
Under my leadership, the force will discharge its statutory responsibilities and other duties based on international core values of policing with integrity and zero tolerance for corruption and ensure that the rule of law prevails in our actions and activities and also make sure that we respect the diversity, display courage and show compassion and demonstrate professionalism in the discharge of our duties and other responsibilities‘
These are good intentions no doubt but the drift of this piece is that the Inspector General should walk the talk and rein in some of his officers and men who are giving the police bad name by their unprofessional disposition.
That in a democratic setting, the police should be in the forefront of protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens and undue detention should not be entertained. Section 4 of the Police Act and Regulation, spells out the role of the police amongst other things to include preservation of law and order, detection of crime, arrest, detention and prosecution of offenders. It is hoped that these duties are carried out by the police without infringing on the fundamental human rights of the citizens.
It is perhaps to check the excesses of some of the bad eggs that they set up the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit. The aim of this unit is for the members of public to report any professional misconduct to the police either at the state Commissioner Level or the Area command and that appropriate actions would be taken against such culprits. Ibrahim Idris while launching the unit in Abuja and with flyers about the unit written in Pidgin English, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo said the aim is internal mechanism in checking the activities of the bad eggs and making the police more responsive and accountable to the citizens of the nation.
This is how IG explained the role of the self regulating unit of the police :‘The Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit is a unit in the force saddled with the responsibility of receiving and resolving all complaints of police professional misconduct emanating from policing activities and operations nationwide. The unit is available 24 hours a day to listen to members of the public from across Nigeria‘. According to the IG, there are seven different platforms which the public can use to reach the police.
These are phone call, SMS, WhatsApp, Blackberry messenger, Twitter, Face book and email. This unit would work closely with Force X Squad Unit to deal with police officers and men across the country. It is instructive to note that apart from the Abuja launch of the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit, State Commissioners of Police had also launched theirs.
The noble intention of this unit cannot be overemphasised. What must be stressed here however is that men and women of integrity should be made to man the unit. It is a one thing to have a good policy and it is a different ball game when it comes to implementation. Agreed that this unit will monitor the activities of the police as result of feedback from the public, the question that staggers the mind who will monitor the activities of this unit should they also fail in their duty?. This is one
area the Inspector General of Police and the various State Commissioners must look into.
As for members of the public, this opportunity should not be used as vendetta against the police. Only genuine cases should be reported and the social media can come into great use. This is era of citizen journalism but it must be done with responsibility and caution. The police should in turn keep the confidentiality of such informants if need be. The police belong to all Nigerians and the masses, the taxpayers should be treated with respect and not at the receiving end of police unwarranted brutality. The Inspector
General of Police has set the right tone for policing the force and it is now left for his officers and men to key into it for the overall benefit of the country.